Davidberlin Davidberlin
Blog

Good luck David

One of our original innovators moves on

So that’s David Berlin away then and I'm sad to see him go. He has pretty much been here from the start. I have got to know him over the past couple of years. He is a well known face at DAZN HQ and also for teams in our development hubs on mainland Europe.

He is without a doubt an innovator. He is also fiercely supportive. Supportive in terms of what we are aiming to achieve but also of us as people. He’s been there every step of the way for his team and he’d always have time for my questions, no matter how random and naïve they were! With that in mind, I couldn’t let him leave without pestering him for some more gossip. He has some fond memories of his time here and is really proud of what we’ve achieved. This is what he had to say.

Where are you off to?

I am off to become Chief Product Officer for an app called Curio. It's audio journalism. They've done deals with the likes of the Financial Times, The Economist, The Guardian, Wall Street Journal, New York Times. You pay a monthly subscription fee and you get all of these services in one place for one price, but all the content is available as audio – read by a human – which means that you can absorb all of this whilst getting on with other stuff.

Curio is one of the very few things that has made me think – yeah, that's a brilliant idea. It's got massive amounts of potential. That’s why I’m excited about it. There are still loads of things that they could do to get it to the next level – the same thing I felt when I joined DAZN.

Let’s look back – what attracted you to joining DAZN?

I had been at the BBC for around four years. I was part of the team that launched the iPlayer iPhone and Android apps. We broke a bunch of records. It was the most successful iPad app ever in the UK. On Christmas Day, in 2011, we got just over a quarter of a million installs just on that morning of the iPhone app, and then the same again on Android on Christmas Day in 2012.

That growth slowed down though and I wanted them to think it was because I had left -- I should flag that David was laughing whilst he said this 😆-- so I decided to move on to join a large-scale recruitment site called StepStone. I worked there for a month but then DAZN got in touch. I initially said no – but then a former colleague, Marcus Parnwell, who I had worked with at the BBC got in touch. It turned out he had joined DAZN. He tried to sell me the dream without describing the highly confidential product, and then Ben Lavender (who was working at DAZN at the time) got in touch. I knew he was a big deal – he was the guy who invented iPlayer and he had also launched LoveFilm online which went on to become Amazon Prime video.

I met with Ben. I signed the NDAs and asked him – so what is it? What is DAZN?

He responded by saying – we’re going to be the Netflix of sport.

I couldn’t say no. Since I first understood what OTT was, I had been waiting for someone to build this. The chance to be part of the build, along with the talent that was there and the backing the project had, was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

What were the early days at DAZN like?

There were twelve of us to begin with. I was on Mobile and Engagement. Marcus Parnwell was running Living Room and Playback. You had people like James Rushton (who is now Co-CEO), Joe Markowski, Danielle Carey and James Goldwin in there too. Myself, Marcus, Will Briggs and Jamie Rice did a bit of brainstorming around what the interface could be. We wrote the PRFAQ. We didn’t even have any UX in those days so I created some very rudimentary wireframes.

We'd already gone out and secured exclusive rights for the Premier League in DACH and J-League in Japan - we basically had a year to build something. It was a very hard deadline in that we simply had to hit season start. It’s an incredible story. It always felt like we had some form of new challenge to overcome, but we did it!

What makes DAZN special for Product people?

It's one of the most exciting projects in the world. If you like sport and you are in Tech, where else could you possibly go?

It's regularly top of the app stores in many countries around the world in all categories. It's a chance to totally disrupt how people digest sport. DAZN is at the forefront – the first and the main exclusive sports OTT service, with many more events than any other broadcaster ever. Some people might aspire to go to Facebook or Spotify or Netflix or whatever - in those places you can hold somebody else's baby. But at DAZN, you get the chance to be responsible for genuine step changes in growth yourself. That’s rare.

To be a success at DAZN you need bias for action – people who can work out what it is that they need to do before being told. It might be that they can't actually solve the problem but they will go and find out who can solve the problem. I had to be careful about getting a balance of personalities who worked together well with each other. There's a huge amount of friendship and camaraderie, as well as mutual respect and they all needed to have a sense of humour. No one in the DAZN Product Team is a passenger.

How has working for DAZN changed you?

I've had times when I haven't produced work at the quality that I always thought I would and the other leaders and colleagues around me really pushed me to dig deep. Ben particularly would challenge me to do more thinking and come back with a more robust solution. I don’t think I’ve ever been properly pushed like that before.

You need that deep thinking and to be constantly questioning yourself in order to come up with a good business case. That made me take long term strategy a lot more seriously. I don’t think I could be a CPO if I hadn’t gone through my experience at DAZN.

What I also gained was a sense of urgency. Why wait until next week when you can do something tomorrow? That is really important. Get a move on when you can! Any gains you can make at the beginning you will be really thankful for at the end of a project.

What were your proudest moments from your time at DAZN?

Being the top grossing sports mobile app in both iOS and Android globally was an amazing achievement. We did that in 2019. We were mentioned at WWDC in 2019 as well – we were in the Apple keynote and we were also recognised as a Best Developer. We were also recognised as a Best Developer at Google Playtime in 2018.

I was at Mobile World Congress a couple of years ago, and I was speaking to our handler from Google, and he was saying that when we launched in Italy, they noticed a massive bump in their revenue data. We recorded a six-figure volume of installs on our first season start day there – we had beaten the Google Play Store single nation daily installs record I had set with iPlayer all those years ago!

How are you feeling at the moment? Excited? Nervous? Sad?

Whilst I’m hugely excited about the new role, I’m definitely a little bit sad to be leaving DAZN. I feel like we are on our way to becoming a worldwide household name, but we’re not there yet. If I hadn’t been offered this amazing opportunity, I’d love to have been there to help complete that journey. I will miss my team so much. They are the best team that I've ever worked with. I’ll definitely stay in touch socially and I’ll carry on mentoring some of them.

How do you want to sign off?

There are still huge challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. DAZN can completely disrupt the world as far as sports is concerned. If you're a sports fan, you have to have DAZN no matter what sport you like or who you support.

The company has such a clear vision now and knows what to do to get there. DAZN is definitely moving in that direction which is really exciting. For me, you can go somewhere bigger and work on something where you can change 0.5% of a KPI, but at DAZN you can make a huge difference. You can try and create something that is genuinely different to any other service. And it’s a service that is good for humanity. This is sport and people love it and they're passionate about it. It's part of your identity. It's not like building an app for insurance or even a marketplace app. This is what most people in tech would jump at the chance to do.

I was massively honoured to have been there at the beginning and to have made some decisions or at least to have been in the room when certain decisions were made. I’m slightly jealous of the people who will go on and make further decisions that will massively change how people (sport fans specifically) spend their day. My message is – enjoy it. It's a rare situation for anyone to be in.